In the end, the Phillies weren’t a playoff team.
But are they a winning team?
That’s the last relevant question now, after the Phillies bowed, 5-3, Thursday night in Atlanta and watched the Braves celebrate their fourth consecutive division title. The longest postseason drought in the National League reached a 10th year, leaving manager Joe Girardi with an empty feeling.
“I feel like I failed,” Girardi said after the Phillies scored six runs in three games and got swept. “I always take responsibility, full responsibility, and I failed. It hurts.”
The Phillies took an overnight flight to Miami, where they will play out the string this weekend. They are 81-78, and while it might seem like small consolation, they must win one of three games against the Marlins to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2011.
It isn’t the playoffs, but it isn’t nothing, either.
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The Phillies went to Atlanta this week thinking they could overtake the Braves. Instead, they watched them celebrate.
Dave Dombrowski carries a yellow legal pad containing notes and even a daily “to-do” list. Here’s a peek at some of what he might be jotting down this winter.
With one year left on his contract, Girardi insisted he’s optimistic about the future of the franchise. “I think there’s progress,” he said.
The Phillies didn’t make the playoffs in 2006, but Ryan Howard still was crowned National League MVP. Fifteen years later, Howard thinks Bryce Harper is a deserving MVP, as Matt Breen writes.
Tonight: Ranger Suárez vs. the Marlins’ Sandy Alcántara, 7:10 p.m.
Tomorrow: The Phillies continue their series in Miami, 6:10 p.m.
Sunday: Zack Wheeler is scheduled to start the season finale, 3:10 p.m.
Feb. 26: Spring-training opener vs. Yankees in Tampa, Fla., TBD.
March 31: Opening day at Houston Astros, TBD.
Stat of the day
If the Seattle Mariners rally over the weekend to clinch a wild-card spot, the Phillies will possess the longest active playoff drought in all of baseball, not just the National League.
But a 10-year stretch is hardly the longest absence from the postseason in franchise history, even since the advent of divisional play in 1969.
The Phillies went 13 seasons between playoff appearances from 1994 through 2006. Before that, they had a 25-year drought (1951-75). They also went 34 years between their first World Series appearance (1915) and their second (1950).
From the mailbag
Question: Love Extra Innings. Baseball is such a game of changes and adjustments. Look at Rhys [Hoskins]. Pitching caught up to him, and he was able to make the adjustments and excel. Not for batting average, but his power numbers were great this year. Is it possible the league has caught up to [Aaron] Nola and he’s not been able to respond? — Dave S., via email
Answer: Thanks, Dave. Excellent question. I suppose it’s possible. I’m just not sure why this would be the year the league caught up to Nola. He got called up in 2015 and made 33 starts in 2018, 34 in 2019, and 12 last season. Since the beginning of the 2018 season, he has made 111 starts, most in the majors. It’s not like he was a well-kept secret before this year.
I will say this: Early in the season, I did wonder if Nola’s struggles against NL East teams were related to familiarity, especially after the intradivisional schedule last season. Ultimately, I wonder if he tried to alter his pattern too much and got away from using his two-seamer as often as he should. I’m hoping to write a lot more about Nola in the next few weeks, so please check back.